Occupy Boston Confronts Police

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

“The people united will never be defeated,” chanted the Occupy Boston protesters who had expanded their peaceful encampment beyond the original campsite to accommodateadditional participants.  Veterans for Peace took a front line position as protesters were arrested.

From the beginning, protesters had worked tirelessly to maintain a positive working relationship with city officials. Actions by the Boston Police Department represent a sudden shift away from that dialogue.

“We have a purpose. It’s called the Constitution,” chanted the crowd as police removed campers from the park and trampled the veterans’ flags into the mud. The given reasonfor forcibly removing the protesters at 1:30am was a newly planted flower garden, but the police trampled these flowers in their zeal to curb public enthusiasm for Occupy Boston.

“The whole world is watching”repeated the protesters, with the same hope that has accompanied the Palestinian or Lebanese populations as they have been repelled by“the authorities,” awaiting some kind of angelic or global intervention.

“This is what democracy looks like”was the final word of the crowd as the protesters were arrested.

Official postings from the Occupy Boston newsfeed read:

“As Occupy Boston has grown, the initial area of the occupation has become overcrowded with tents and people. The original encampment is in Dewey Square Park, the southernmost end of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the ribbon of parks created when Boston’s expressway was put underground by the Big Dig. In a spontaneous, autonomous action,a large number of occupiers moved into the next section of the Greenway… A subsequent proposal to officially ratify the expanded presence was adopted by consensus at a General Assembly held in the new space.”

“Boston police arrested 141 people during recent Occupy Boston demonstrations. The early morning arrests were made for trespassing and unlawful assembly. After almost 15 hours in custody, finally all of the peaceful demonstrators the Boston Police Department arrested have been released as of 6:00pm October 11th. Occupy Boston has many eye witness accounts and video evidence of police misconduct.”

Protesters have continued holding a daily “General Assembly” for making group decisions. Occupy Boston ratified a statement of solidarity with indigenous peoples at the Saturday October 8thGeneral Assembly, “recognizing that ‘we are guests upon stolen indigenous land.’” Boston thus became the first city in the broader“Occupation movement” to clearly declare its solidarity with indigenous peoples. This is important for all Americans who have been supporting freedom for Palestine.

“United American Indians of New England (UAINE) supports Occupy/Decolonize Boston and the Occupy/Decolonize Wall Street movement generally. We are deeply moved and encouraged that Occupy/Decolonize Boston, as one of its very first actions, issued a memorandum in solidarity with Indigenous peoples.

“We have been the victims of corporate greed for centuries. If you seek to reimagine a new society free of corporate greed, then we would ask that you learn all you can about the past that has carried us to this place.

“We fully support the right of the Occupy/Decolonize Boston encampment to expand from Dewey Square to other parks and open spaces in the city,without the necessity of permits and without fear of police reprisals.”

Occupy Boston has maintained that it will non-violently resist any attempt to end the protest before achieving the change they seek. The protesters have not yet united on any clear aim for their protest other than insisting on their right to continue to protest.

Those of us watching from the sidelines can only speculate as to what importance these protests might have on America’s present and future,or how this relates to struggles in other parts of the world. Without doubt, the emotional enthusiasm of these protesters is real, even raw. Even if we don’t quite understand their goals, a visit to one’s local protest site is sure to invigorate the apathetic. First generation Americans should take note of their personal responsibility to defend US democracy in action.

Shays Rebellion of 1786-87 in Western Massachusetts, was the first populist uprising after the American Revolution. Daniel Shays organized poor farmers from the Connecticut River Valley to shut down the courts that were sending them to debtors prison on behalf of big Boston banks. Many of the farmers were veterans who had trudged home from the Revolution “with not a single month’s pay”in their pockets. Shays and his followers have always been viewed as a small group of poor farmers and debtors who closed the courts as a protest of local civil authority.

To quote Howard Zinn: “The American colonists, having fought and won the war for independence from England, faced the question of what kind of government to establish. In 1786, three years after the treaty of peace was signed, there was a rebellion of farmers in western Massachusetts, led by Captain Daniel Shays, a veteran of the Revolutionary war. The uprising was crushed, but it put a scare into those leaders who were to become our Founding Fathers.”

After Shays Rebellion, General Henry Knox warned his former commander, George Washington, about the rebels: “They see the weakness of government; they feel at once their own poverty, compared to the opulent, and their own force, and they are determined to make use of the latter in order to remedy the former. Their creed is that the property of the U.S. has been protected from the confiscations of Britain by the joint exertions of all, and therefore should be the common property of all.”

The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for 1787 was called to deal with this problem, to set up “big government,” to protect the interests of merchants, slave-holders, and landowners.
The conflict between the original purpose of the Constitution,which was to protect landowners, and the current interpretations protecting the rights of individuals, remains at a standstill. Meanwhile, “We the People” continue to voice general grievances.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. Karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

Omar Hassan Still a Star Skateboarder

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

skateboarding mag may 2010-4Omar Hassan remains one of the world’s best professional skateboarders, even at the ripe old age of 37. His specialty is the Park competition, and it was there that he was competitive once again this summer. In the recently completed X-Games Seventeen, in Los Angeles, California, he finished 4th in the Park competition. He also finished 4th in the Park in 2008 and 2009. The versatile skater has competed in six X Games disciplines since 1995.

Hassan hails from Costa Mesa, California. He has, interestingly, never held a job outside of the world of professional skateboarding. He still retains multiple sponsorships, including: Black Label, Independent Trucks, Vans, Quiksilver, Ford, and Black Flys. So, clearly, people are still willing to put money on his talent.

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Florida Mosque Bombing Suspect Fatally Shot in Oklahoma

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kristi Eaton

ORIENTA, Okla. — A man wanted in the bombing of a Florida mosque was shot and killed Wednesday when he brandished a weapon as agents tried to serve an arrest warrant in northwest Oklahoma, FBI officials said.

Sandlin Matthews Smith, 46, of St. Johns County, Fla., pulled out a firearm as federal and state law enforcement officers approached him in a field at Glass Mountain State Park near Orienta and asked him to surrender, said FBI Special Agent Jeff Westcott of Jacksonville, Fla.

Westcott said agents learned late Tuesday that Smith was staying in a tent in the park, located in the rugged foothills of the Glass Mountains in northwest Oklahoma. An Oklahoma City FBI SWAT team and other law enforcement officers blocked off the area overnight, Westcott said.

Agent Clayton Simmonds at the FBI’s Oklahoma City office said Smith was taken to a hospital in Fairview, where he was pronounced dead.

Reporters were kept back about two miles from the scene of the shooting. Because of the nature of the bombing, agents were concerned that there may have been an explosive device in the area, Simmonds said. Officials wanted to keep reporters away while they were processing the scene, but so far no bombs have been found, he said.

Simmonds said he didn’t think there were any other campers at the park.

Smith was facing several federal charges, including damage to religious property and possession of a destructive device, in connection with the May 10, 2010, bombing of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville. No one was hurt in that explosion, but authorities found remnants of a crude pipe bomb at the scene, and shrapnel from the blast was found a hundred yards away.
A call to a telephone listing for Smith in St. John, Fla., seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday night.

The center issued a statement commending law enforcement officers’ diligence in finding the person responsible for the blast.

“The membership and constituents of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida join all citizens of goodwill in Jacksonville to express their relief that any threat posed by the person suspected in the bombing of the Islamic Center has ceased as well as convey their regret that any lives were lost,” the statement read.

The shooting occurred about 110 miles northwest of Oklahoma City in a sparsely populated area of Major County.

Levada Tharp, who lives about four miles from the park, said law enforcement officers came to her house about 8:30 a.m. and asked if she had seen anything suspicious. Tharp said she hadn’t seen anything unusual.

She said she and her husband have been scared in the past of encountering coyotes on their 40-acre property, but not another person. They’ve locked the motorhome they keep behind their house and she will take other precautions when she goes out on their land.

“I won’t do it now without my cell phone,” she said. “Now I’ll take the truck.”

Simmonds said it’s unclear why Smith was in Oklahoma. He said the shooting still was being investigated.

“I’m not at liberty to say who fired on him,” Simmonds said.

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The Story of ‘Skateistan’

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

skate

Australian skateboard enthusiasts Oliver Percovich and Sharna Nolan started a quiet revolution in the Afghan capital of Kabul back in 2007 simply by riding their skateboards around the dusty war-ravaged city. The looks on the faces of the Afghan kids that happened upon them would be the catalyst that would drive the couple to create the very first skate park in the country. The Australian duo’s first skate park venture began with a small patch of land near an old fountain, three skateboards and a handful of interested kids.

Yet, as interest in skateboarding grew and the dangers of the reality of surviving in Kabul set in, both Percovich and Nolan knew that they needed something bigger and better. Thanks to help from donations adding up to over $650,000 and support from the Afghan Olympic Committee, ‘Skateistan’ recently opened its doors to any Afghan youth interested in learning to skateboard. The indoor skateboard arena measures a hefty 1,800 sq m (19,380 sq ft) and is composed of several dizzying obstacles for the Afghan skateboarders to learn and master.

The first obstacle is the ‘baby ramp’ which beginners can learn to skateboard on and perfect their balance. The intermediary obstacles include a set of wooden stairs with a rail and curb followed by a mini ramp with extension. For advanced skateboarders there is the ‘rocket wall’, which is the park’s signature obstacle, and the ‘Afghan gap’ that is made up of two large quarter ramps with a gap in the middle for tricks. There are also novel obstacles littered in between the main attractions, which ensures that every skateboarder has somewhere to ride their board.

More than 200 Afghan skateboarders have already signed up for the skate park roster. Boys and girls from all socio-economic classes learn to skateboard together in a whole new world far removed from the atrocities that years of Taleban rule and the U.S.’s war have wreaked on the country. According to Skateistan’s official website, the founders mission statement declares that, “Skateboarding is a widely-loved platform through which young men and women from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can engage positively with each other. Considering the country’s recent political history, not to mention its longstanding social barriers, we believe that the community-building effects of skateboarding will be especially visible in Afghanistan. Skateistan’s mission is to build cross-cultural understanding and develop youth confidence, leadership, and life skills.”

Not everyone is happy about the success of the skate park. Sports in Afghanistan are considered to be exclusively for males. Women and girls are often deemed to be unsuitable for playing sports. But since skateboarding is so novel in Afghanistan, girls are enjoying the sport well under the radar. However, there have been some reports that a couple of female skateboarders have been beaten by male relatives to deter them from going back to the skate park.

The skateboard services of Skateistan are free for all Afghan children and include the free use of equipment, such as a helmet and skateboard. Off the ramps and obstacles, Afghan skateboarders are also privileged to the opportunity of receiving an education. Classrooms are located in the back of the skate park with subjects like English and Computer skills being offered. Due to the variety and expense of services the skate park offers there is an ever-growing need for volunteers and donors, which are actively sought on the official Skateistan website (www.Skateistan.org ).

While the location of Skateistan might be remote and not easily accessible for non-Afghans, the skate park is already gaining international recognition. This past December founder Oliver Percovich accepted the award for ‘Best Non-Governmental Organization of the Year’ in Monaco, which was presented under the auspices of His Highness Prince Albert II.

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